11 epic American holiday experiences worth traveling for

By Kristine Hansen
December 04, 2018, 12:59:19 PM EST

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(Photo: The House on the Rock)


Houses decorated with holiday lights seem so last year when you consider how certain towns around the U.S. kick off the busy holiday season in November and December. Every town has its signature take on Christmas and Hanukkah, of course, but some are so darn special you might want to book a flight and hotel room pronto. From Boston to Phoenix, and Park City to Cocoa Beach, here’s where to go for some of the most memorable holiday experiences in the country.

“Les Noches de Luminarias” at Phoenix Botanical Garden
WHERE:Phoenix, Arizona

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(Photo: Desert Botanical Garden)


Live up North? Consider this festive tradition a reason to flee to a warmer environment to celebrate. Luminarias—sometimes called faralitos—are small paper lanterns filled with candles and set outside after dusk. You’ll find this tradition throughout New Mexico and Arizona. All throughout December, for the annual Les Noches de Luminariasfestival at the Phoenix Botanical Garden, paper bags are weighed down with sand and a lit candle. Arranged along the gardens’ walkways, they cast a soft glow on the flora and fauna, paired with live mariachi music and twinkling lights.

Surfing Santas
WHERE: Cocoa Beach, Florida

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(Photo: NPI Productions/Florida Space Coast)


Santa is often associated with elves, reindeer and a sleigh that zips between houses. But what about when he’s delivering presents in communities along the coast? Shouldn’t he get to hop on a board, too? Each Christmas Eve morning, Surfing Santas—when hundreds of surfers dressed in red Santa outfits—take to the waves for one last thrill before deliveries begin. It’s free to participate—as long as you have a Santa suit.

Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla
WHERE: Beaufort, South Carolina

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(Photo: Alex Liivet (CC BY 2.0) / Flickr)


You’ve likely seen plenty of holiday lights strung on the windows and rooflines of houses but what about in a fleet of watercraft? The annual Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla, held on December 1 this year, is for anything that floats, which might include kayaks, canoes, and yachts. Locals really get into this as prizes are given out for the most well-designed floats. Even if you are traveling, but can easily get your hands on a kayak or canoe, consider entering. It’s the best way to meet locals.

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